I believe the root of violence to be an expression of power, typically exerted as a response to some kind of challenge to it. The domestic abuser beats his wife because he believes himself to be the dominant partner, and if there is a perception of a question to that authority, then a violent response rectifies the imbalance. School shooters are almost exclusively those who feel that their power has been chipped away by the belittlement of others, and excessive violence is their attempt to regain it. A bar fight is a dick-measuring contest between apes, seeing who is the greater alpha male, or, more simply, who is the more powerful. There are of course exceptions, but most of the journals and articles I’ve read regarding violence explain it as an assertion of dominance and control. It’s not even that difficult to project the intentions behind interpersonal violence onto international conflicts, as countries vie for control over resources, subjects, or territory, seeking only to expand their stately power.

The perpetrators of violence, those who feel the greatest need to exert power, are almost all men. There have been several inquiries into the link between violence and masculinity, and one that is easily accessible, succinct, and informative is the documentary Tough Guise which I am obviously suggesting you watch due to my linking of it here. As easy as it is to dismiss violence as solely within the deficiencies of interpersonal relationships between men forcing conformity onto one another, it is critical to realize that social pressures are universally applied.

Ice T, in his infinite wisdom, imparted this gem, “If women didn’t like criminals, there would be no crime.” While charmingly naive, Ice T may well have gleaned some element of truth surrounding the desires of women impacting the nature of masculinity to a certain degree. Remember Elliot Rodgers? He committed an unforgivable act of violence, not due to excessive bullying from his male peers, but from the ostracization he suffered from the hands of women. To the horror of many feminists, message boards lit up in the aftermath saying that the tragedy could have been averted if Rodgers possessed a greater degree of “game.” Progressive conversations raged against this wash of men who sympathized with Rodgers’s rejection as they believed, correctly, that there is no excuse for targeted violence against women. However, the conversation tacitly ignored the reality to which the message boards allude: conforming to the desires of women is significant enough to male needs to a degree that violence is seen as a semi-understandable response to its lack.

It’s pretty easy to understand the muscular definition of male bodies that is often found attractive is a representation of power, but even height, which so many women demand in a partner, is also a sign of physical dominance. Watch any fight on TV, and the man who can tower over his opponent is almost intrinsically seen as the likely winner. Financial success, most commonly seen in the tradition of men paying for the first (and usually subsequent) dates, is not difficult to see as a marker of economic power in a culture driven by the necessity of wealth. Women who wish to feel “safe” with their man are expecting that he possess enough power to provide that security for her, almost as if she needs him to be able to commit violence on her behalf if a situation calls for it. Even confidence is not so benign, and the characteristic women claim to find the most desirable is really the extension of power over one’s self and one’s surrounding environment.

I do not mean to suggest that any degree of power is going to cause a firestorm of violence if left untempered, and I still maintain my Yin Yang approach to desirable human characteristics. For instance, confidence is an easy attribute to defend, but when considered among all the other desirable traits it does not stray from the general trend. If every stipulation of manhood required by both genders, either for romantic interest or peer conformity, necessitates power, then it is of no wonder that detrimental expressions of that power will be unleashed when a man is unable to meet that requirement. Even though violence is a decisively masculine problem, we are all responsible. We cannot point any fingers. Social pressures are indicative of the norms and traditions of a whole society, infused in us, regardless of gender. If we wish to make changes, we must begin with ourselves.